Occupational Medicine


What is occupational medicine?

Occupational medicine is the branch of medicine dealing with the prevention and treatment of job-related injuries and illnesses. It is the area where medicine, business and employee health overlap. The goal of an occupational medicine program is to foster a safe and healthy work environment. When employees are injured at work, occupational medicine providers are committed to helping those employees get well and back to work as safely and quickly as possible.

What are the advantages of using Northern Arizona Healthcare Medical Group Occupational Medicine instead of urgent care or the emergency room?

As soon as an employee has a work-related injury or illness, the employer calls Northern Arizona Healthcare Medical Group Occupational Medicine to schedule a same-day appointment. This eliminates long wait times in a crowded room of sick people, which is most often the case in an urgent care center or emergency room. For employers providing workers’ compensation insurance, it is more economical to use an occupational medicine office for employees’ work-related injuries and illnesses.

Because our physicians, nurse practitioners and other team members are local community members who live and work in the area, there is a continuity of care because employees see the same provider each time they visit our office. From a provider perspective, the focus is on improved patient outcomes. From a patient perspective, the experience is a continuous, caring relationship that offers a smooth flow of service.

Northern Arizona Healthcare Medical Group Occupational Medicine has a unique partnership with other specialties, such as physical and occupational therapy, wound care, orthopedics, medical imaging and cardiology, which results in seamless coordination and sharing of information between providers. There are times an employee may require an after-hours or other emergency department visit. Upon discharge from the ED, the attending physician will refer the employee to the occupational medicine clinic for next-day, follow-up care. We have the unique advantage of having immediate access to the employee’s ED records.

Because our providers are focused on occupational medicine, they can make more accurate decisions about when and under which circumstances an employee can return to work. Our goal is to give employees light duty rather than work absence, whenever it is safely possible to do so. This reduces lost work time, benefiting both the employee and employer.

Do you communicate with my employer about my work-related injuries?

Northern Arizona Healthcare Medical Group Occupational Medicine provides detailed reports summarizing exam results and patient progress in easy-to-understand language to employers, insurance carriers and/or third party administrators. Additionally, members of our clinic staff are always available to meet in person or talk on the phone to answer questions or address concerns.

My job requires a lot of repetitive motion and heavy lifting. What I can do to prevent injuries?

The most important thing you can do is be mindful of how you are moving and lifting. If a particular movement is causing pain, you should adjust your movement before an injury occurs. Most employers are aware of potential overuse injuries associated with their specific workplaces and have developed ergonomics training programs for injury prevention.

Do most work-related injuries happen because of a single incident, or can they develop over time due to normal work-related tasks?

Most work-related injuries occur because of a single incident, but there are some injuries that occur from overuse. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a good example of this.

Does working in an office exempt me from work-related injuries?

Office-based employees can also be injured on the job. Most of these injuries are related to overuse rather than accidents. Some examples include sitting too long in one position; holding the telephone between the ear and shoulder; or excessive use of the computer – all of which can cause recurring pain. It’s important to be mindful of ergonomics and take periodic breaks from repetitive movement throughout the day.

What if I can’t return to work at full capacity?

In the short-term, most employers have light-duty jobs available when an employee is unable to return to regular duty work. If an on-the-job injury leaves an employee permanently injured and unable to return to his/her regular job, an Independent Medical Examination, or IME, may be required. An IME is a detailed history and physical exam performed by a specialized physician assigned by the workers’ compensation insurance company. IMEs are conducted to determine the cause and extent of a work-related injury where liability may be an issue, whether or not an individual has reached maximum benefit from treatment.